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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 2947

Mr PEACOCK —My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. What is today' s position on the assets test?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —The position is unchanged. There will be an assets test. I note the honourable gentleman says that there will not be an assets test if he is ever elected. I do not suppose we need discuss that any further. It is a question of equity between people who have no assets and no income and have to rely on the pension and those who have substantial assets and apparently no income and collect the pension. That is the problem to which I think any government, if it is interested in looking after the welfare of its citizens, might have regard. It is quite ridiculous to think that people with substantial assets but with no income-some of them putting money into property trusts for capital accumulation-can avail themselves of other taxpayers' money by way of a pension. The real issue for any government is to improve the standard of living of those people who are no longer able to work and who have to rely solely on a pension for their sustenance. That certainly makes it very clear, does it not, that if the pension is the only income those people have and if others have hidden income by way of capital appreciation which entitles them to get around the thrust of the problem, a government must do something.

The Government has been looking at the issue from the point of view of equity for all people of pensionable age. It is very anxious to guarantee that people obtain at least 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, and that will mean an increase in the present base rate of pension. To be able to increase that base rate of pension adequate funds need to be available. It is a misuse of financal resources to give them to people who do not need them and not to give them to those in need. As the honourable member would be aware, many people, even in his electorate, would be anxious to improve their standard of living by getting more by way of a pension. It can be done. I want to assure the honourable gentleman that regardless of what test is brought in and when it is brought in, it will be fair and equitable and in accordance with the dictates of what one would call the conscience of the Australian people.